Fighting Food Fads

What should come back and what should stay dead.

This week is all about fads. Everywhere you look the 90’s and early aughts are back and everyone is collectively losing their minds. There is no place on the internet where you are safe from the hundreds of listicles and think pieces on what should stay dead and what should come roaring back. From chunky heels to low-rise jeans, everything old is new again and that got us thinking. Foods fall in and out of fashion all the time but rarely get the same listicle treatment, so this week we’re walking down memory lane. What foods from the 90’s and early 00’s deserve more life and what should stay buried?

First up, sundried tomatoes. You couldn’t cook a fancy meal or go out to eat anywhere in the 90s without running into a sundried tomato. Sure, they’re as old as time but thanks to specialty food sellers like Dean & DeLuca they started being a go-to ingredient for chefs across the country starting in the late 80s. Their rapid rise to ubiquity were even chronicalled on two of the decade's biggest shows: Friends and Seinfeld. They were in weird cream sauces, thrown into pasta salads, on pizza, and even put into sandwiches whole. Lots of people didn’t know what the fuck to do with them and thus, they often tasted like shit. Textures could range anywhere from gummy to as tough as beef jerky. 

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But it’s not these tasty fuckers fault; those are just some clueless cooks. So we vote to bring them back from exile. We use them in our carbonara pasta in Bad Manners: Fast as Fuck and they feature in a pesto on our tomato tart in our new cookbook Brave New Meal - which drops in 1 week.

Next up, cupcakes. We all knew someone or someone’s mom who got waaayyy too into cupcakes in the early aughts. They were everywhere. Thanks to shows like Sex and the City and SNL, shops like Magnolia Bakery helped make cupcakes the *it* sweet. Cupcake shops started blanketing major cities and this dessert once reserved for children was suddenly the go-to sweet for everything from weddings to office parties. Here in LA there’s a cupcake ATM and of course it’s in Beverly Hills because… let them eat cupcakes? But honestly- most cupcakes are trash. The cake to frosting ratio has always been way off and they’re usually dry as hell. We’d take a slice of actual cake over one of those frosted nightmares any day of the week. Stay gone cupcakes. We don’t miss you. 

Next up, we have crab cakes. Crab cakes were THE definition of fancy but easy breezy 90s food. It’s hard to say what exactly started this trend. Maybe it was McCormick & Co buying Old Bay Seasoning and marketing the hell out of it. Maybe it was the influx of more affordable, pasteurized crab meat from Asian and Latin American countries. No matter the origin, they were the most popular food in America by 1997. Suddenly these little flavor pucks were everywhere from the famous Obrychi’s in Baltimore to the prepared foods counter at your fancier grocery stores. Obviously, we’re not down with seafood but we don’t think they deserve outright cancellation. There are still some flavors worth saving in there without, ya know, destroying the ocean. Try these Crispy Crabless Cakes from Lauren Toyota and see what all the fuss was about.

And last but not least we have biscotti. These delicious, crunchy treats have been around in Italy for hundreds of years since their creation in the Tuscan city of Prato in the 14th century. Yeah, they’re old school delicious. The word biscotti is taken from the Latin biscoctus, meaning twice baked or cooked since the cookies are first formed into logs, baked, cooled, cut, and baked again. Despite their old-world origins, the rise of coffee house culture in the US in the 1990s led to biscotti becoming a household word. It’s impossible to not credit Starbucks with this because the global coffee leader ushered biscotti into all of our mouths just as their shops were popping up on every corner that decade. Starbucks went into the 1990s with only 55 locations and ended the decade with 2,498 stores. Now every city had coffee and biscotti in stock. These crunchy cookies show up constantly in the biggest shows of the 1990s from Seinfeld to Friends. But no show repped biscotti harder than Frasier. They were in the background of thousands of scenes and a constant topic of discussion with Niles.

And despite becoming a coffee cliché, we’d love to see biscotti have another day in the sun. So this week, in our supporters-only newsletter, we’re debuting our Pistachio Biscotti recipe so you can relive the 90s in style. 

Not a supporter yet? You’re gonna wanna fix that because these are goddamn delicious and require zero fancy equipment.

This week on our Halloween episode of Forked Up we explore a world without onions, hacking candy corn, and a popular butcher shop gets the axe. Michelle explains the myth behind razor blades in Halloween candy and Matt has beef with a shady costume store. 

Recipes discussed this week are Dark and Stormy Coconut Cream Pie  and Skillet Tempeh Pasta

Now go have a happy halloween and save some candy for us.

Michelle and Matt